J.K. Rowling was on The Daily Show last night.
I'm totally paraphrasing her, but she said:
"People think I'm brave to write a different kind of book after I've had so much success.
But what was brave was spending 7 years on my first book when nobody but me believed there was anything there."
Yeah. It takes guts.
Right now, I'm in that phase where I'm having doubts about my writing ability. What I try to do is not say: "I'm not good enough." What I try to say is: "The book's not good enough."
Because if the "book's not good enough" I can always try to make it better....
Meanwhile, every day I write a separate "Writer's Journal" for myself, which I don't publish.
I thought I'd show you today's entry, to give you a flavor of what I'm saying to myself.
mutter, mutter, mutter.
It's pretty specific, and deals with details you won't know anything about, but -- some of it is also pretty universal for writers, I would think.
I'd hoped to push on through with the copy-editing yesterday, but it
took over 3 hours to reformat the chapters to work on. Crazy.
So I still have about 12 thousand words to do, or about 3 hours of work.
I've been having lots of ideas about how to improve and restructure the book.
never been completely satisfied with the P.E.T.A. part of the book.
But I'm not quite willing to replace it. I think, however, instead of
trying to talk an entire room of animal lovers into going to war, that
he just has to convince the judge's wife, who has just lost her dogs, and maybe a couple of hangers
Meanwhile, in a discarded chapter, Cobb has made friends with a rancher who
has been missing cattle, and so if I reinsert that chapter, we get the tough old motivated rancher and his wife and
two ranch hands. Better, I think. Means I have to do a lot of
I'm going to drop the Supreme Court
judge. I'm going to drop the scene at the police station when they get the weapons. Just have Officer Harvey show up with a trunk full of guns and ammo. That was two
steps too far in credulity. Strange how I have more trouble with
credulity in the real world scenes than I do in the fantasy scenes.
Meanwhile, I want to attempt a tricky backward
plot in the relationship between Cobb and Lillian. I'm not sure how
that will work.
The Kraken is the other problematic
character. I need a powerful faery creature -- but a Kraken just is a
joke these days. Maybe use a made-up name? Just have it be a powerful
nature spirit? It would fit the rest of the book in making up
critters. But maybe I should try harder to use real terms all the way
through? But I like all my new species -- Kordrangers, Kovens, etc.
Right now, I have a mix of the two. Gorgons, dragons, gnomes, kobalds, krakens -- and then all the made-up critters.
What I'm going to have to do is break apart the book, and reassemble it. Very, very tricky.
should really do an outline of some kind, first. Might save a whole
lot of trouble later. But that just bores the crap out of me. I think
I'll do chapter summaries, and move them around. I can do that much.
It's much like when I make changes in the store -- I plan ahead, but I'm
also aware that most of the changes will have to be changed.
interesting to me how often I think I have these books done, only to
find that I'm not even close to finished. I need
to add layer after layer of realness to the book before it takes form.
But I have to fool myself each step of the way that I'm close to doing
This is probably closer to my experience with
Star Axe, or Deviltree, which came hard and took years, than it is with Snowcastles or Icetowers. Which
I have to expect that The Reluctant Wizard is going to need a lot more too. Though the first draft came easy, more like Snowcastles and Icetowers.
the writing itself. I do think I need to but in more and varied 'bits
of business' but I need some inspiration there. Less "he looked at" or
"she smiled" type uninspired humdrum business, and find some better ways
to say that.
I may just sit down with a notebook and my favorite writers and find what I can steal.
I need more sight, sounds and descriptions. Just lots and lots and
lots more 'telling,' and creative detail. Artistic touches.
Pull out all the "seeming" and "appeared" type phrasing, go a little lighter on the adverbs and adjectives.
few pages I have what I consider a really good line. What was
interesting is that Martha caught almost all of those and but a "smiley"
face on them. I have to be careful to retain those, maybe go back over
the manuscript and lift them out if they get cut for some reason. And find a way to add another "really good line" to every page or so. And then another...
I think I need to tell myself to "Write over my head" so to speak.
have some real world characters in my book-- Poe, Lovecraft, Tolkien.
and others -- and I need a way to make those people feel more real.
More true to the actual people. Peruse their actual correspondence, for
instance. Tolkien's letters, what Lovecraft and Howard wrote to each
Google "letters of".
For instance, I'm
thinking of leading off with a visit to Robert E. Howard. I need to
make the reader feel the grittiness of that terrain, that lifestyle.
(Also would fit right in with meeting the rancher in the early part of
the book.) If I could summon even a hint of the grittiness of Blood
Meridian, for instance. Maybe ask Jim for help on a few of those "real"
A couple of motivational
changes. Instead of Cobb always trying to get the Faery to "believe", I
think the problem is making them "care." They are feckless, live for
today. They rally to his defense at the end because HE's in trouble,
not because of some great rallying cause.
I also need
to make the Cthulhu more seductive. Not just horrifying, but also
promising. Each of the historical characters can talk about that, in
one way or another.
Just one step at a time. This is going to be hard to do. This book may never come together. But I have to keep trying.
want to go back and redo Sometimes A Dragon after this. Then I'll have
four books -- Deviltree, Sometimes A Dragon, A Reluctant Wizard, and
I'm Only Human -- that I've worked on to a significant extent -- I won't
say to the best of my abilities, because I always think that will be
the next draft, the next book....
Deviltree made the rounds and came close; Sometimes A Dragon only went out a couple of times. The last two are completely new.
Then start a fifth, eh?
1 week ago